The Civil Rights Demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama The Conditions Prior to the Storm Prior to the passage into law of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, the South had always been the most racially divided region in the country. It is here were segregationist policies are systematized through state legislations, the outcome of which were called the Jim Crow laws…
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Such cultural or ideological concept was further strengthened with the formulation and implementation of certain ordinances in the city. Two particular ordinances that highlight segregationist policies are Section 369 and Section 597 of the city ordinances (Birmingham’s Racial Segregation Ordinances, May 1951). Section 369 is about the separation of races when it comes to restaurants and other places in the city that serve food. A restaurant may also serve to both blacks and whites but dividers should also be put in place. Section 597, on the other hand, explicitly states that “it shall be unlawful for a negro and a white person to play together or in company with each other in any game of cards or dice, dominoes or checkers.” These policies clearly banned any socialization done between whites and blacks. What is interesting to note is that Birmingham, during the said period in history, nearly had an equal population of white Americans and African Americans; the former comprising 60 percent while the latter made up for 40 percent. It is clear that while the blacks were a minority, they were not far behind in numbers when compared to the whites. However, this was also the factor why they bore the brunt of racism even more. This could be seen in how they had been deprived of job opportunities. This consequently affected the capabilities of the blacks to gain income. According to Garrow, the average income of African Americans in Birmingham was less than half of white salary-earners; a fact that could be observed at the local steel mills (1989, p. 165). The jobs that were made available to the blacks were only those that are under the category of manual labor. Any time that retrenchments have to be made, it was always the black workers that have to leave first. Aside from the cultural and economic biases against the blacks in Birmingham, violent actions and political coercion were also made against them. These only made the situations even worse. In fact, there were scores of bombings that were made since 1945 to 1962 that targeted prominent African American individuals. Homes, meeting places, and even churches used by the blacks, especially those that were used as venues to discuss their conditions, were not spared from such attacks. The state of Alabama outlawed the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. This is the reason why Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, along with other leaders in the church, organized the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. The said organization immediately waged a campaign to junk the segregationist ordinances in Birmingham. The courts were soon convinced that segregationist policies related to the use of the city’s parks are illegal. In response, the city administration decided to close the parks. Early Attempts at Demonstrations and Failures After realizing that Birmingham’s city administration would not easily give in to the demands for the termination of segregationist policies, Rev. Shuttlesworth decided to seek help from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was fast becoming influential in uniting the blacks in the struggle for civil rights. The SCLC responded positively and immediately went to plan the first series of protests. Its first attempt at non-violent direct actions aimed to put pressure on the city’
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